Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Divorce in Early Tennessee

By Gale W. Bamman, CG, CGL
© Copyright, Gale W. Bamman, 1985, 1999

Editors note: This paper has been adapted from the Introduction found in her book, Tennessee Divorces 1797-1858, Taken from 750 Legislative Petitions and Acts* by Gale W. Bamman and Debbie W. Spero, and is published here with permission.


Divorce was the last resort for unhappily married persons in the early 1800s because of the ensuing shame, embarrassment, and ostracism. Nevertheless, when a marriage could no longer be tolerated, a divorce was sought, either through the courts, or by petitioning the Tennessee General Assembly for a decree.

Only a small number of divorces were sought by petition to the General Assembly, 1797-1858. The others were brought before the superior courts between 1799-1809, then from 1809-1835 in the circuit courts, and since 1835, either in the circuit or chancery courts.

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